Have you ever been advised to avoid certain foods because of their ability to increase inflammation in the body? Maybe you’ve been warned about nightshades, or the dangers of sugar and processed foods. You may have heard about diet plans marketed specifically to target inflammation in the body, like the Tom Brady Diet or Whole 30. But really… How significant of an effect does the diet have on inflammation in your body? Should you avoid inflammatory foods all together? What foods cause inflammation, and which ones are anti-inflammatory?
We will answer all of those questions in this article, and help you get a better understanding of how inflammation impacts your health. Let’s first explore the different types of inflammatory responses, and how they may affect your body.
Acute vs Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or illness. There are two main types of inflammatory response – acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is what many of us have probably experienced at one point or another as a result of a minor injury or infection. When we are injured, the body releases certain molecules that signal the immune system to protect the site of injury or infection. It is the body’s normal, rapid response to promote healing and recovery. Acute inflammation is pretty easy to recognize, and may present as swelling, redness of the skin, or fever.
On the other hand, chronic inflammation has a longer-term effect on our health, and is influenced by a variety of factors including diet, presence of chronic disease, stress, mental health, and lifestyle. This form of inflammation has some moresignificant long-term effects – the top leading causes of death are all inflammatory conditions, including ischemic heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, autoimmune, and neurodegenerative conditions. 
Inflammation can also occur in response to stress. Rather than mounting an immune defense, in response to stress, the body gears up its ‘fight or flight’ response. Researchers have found that the body undergoes a few physiologic changes in response to stress, like increased levels of cortisol, C-reactive protein, and adrenaline. It seems that these hormones and proteins contribute to increased inflammation in the body, which can either be acute or chronic, depending on the source of the stress. 
Everything in Moderation
So, even though inflammation is our body’s way of protecting us from illness and injury, too much inflammation can have some negative consequences. When the inflammatory response persists, the cells and molecules that responded to the initial trigger can actually harm the body tissues they’re trying to protect.
The damage to the body might be noticeable; you might feel achy, fatigued, experience poor sleep, and your mental health may even suffer.  However, the body is very adaptive, and over time, you might not even notice the effects.
It’s also important to consider that inflammation might affect us all a little differently. For example, there are many chronic health conditions that may be affected by, and cause inflammation in the body. This includes, but is certainly not limited to: autoimmune conditions, obesity, celiac disease, allergies, asthma, and inflammatory bowel disease.
In conditions like these, avoiding inflammation can be imperative in the prevention of immune damage or other serious chronic conditions, such as cancer.  Regardless of your health status, it’s important to protect yourself against excessive inflammation.
Can inflammation be affected by our lifestyle and diet?
Okay, so we’ve established that inflammation, while helpful, can be harmful if it becomes chronic. If injuries, infections, stress, and illness are some of the main causes of inflammation, what about the food we eat? Does food choice affect inflammatory status to a noticeable degree?
The short answer is yes.
A 2019 study released a comprehensive index of dietary trends and lifestyle factors that relate to inflammation. Previous studies have noted the inflammatory effect of individual macro- and micronutrients, but this newer study was interesting in that it looked at dietary trends more broadly, and analyzed food groups rather than individual nutrients.
The results may not be all that surprising. Generally, ‘healthier’ food and lifestyle choices were considered anti-inflammatory, while more ‘unhealthy’ behaviors, like smoking, drinking, and consumption of red meat, sugar, and processed foods, were associated with increased markers of inflammation. 
So, if inflammation can be impacted by your diet and lifestyle choices, what choices can you make to optimize your health, and temper inflammation? Here are five tips that you can use to reduce inflammation – your body will thank you later!
Eat a Diet Rich in Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are commonly regarded as anti-inflammatory food choices. They are rich in a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, like antioxidants, that may help reduce inflammation. There is some speculation that the nightshade vegetables, like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes, may cause increased inflammation, but this is not entirely supported by the scientific literature. In fact, just like the other fruits and vegetables, nightshade vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are known to help reduce inflammation.
*Pro Tip: Avoid cooking and eating potatoes that have started to sprout or turn green. Nightshades are thought to be inflammatory due to a toxic compound called solanine. Solanine is found in harmless, trace amounts in edible nightshades, but it can become more concentrated in potatoes that sprout in the pantry. Toss these old potatoes to avoid exposure to this toxicant!
Get More Active
While certain physical activities may increase your acute inflammatory response, regular exercise actually has a positive impact on your body. Sedentary lifestyles are associated with greater risk of inflammatory conditions, like cardiovascular disease. Increasing your activity level can have a significant impact in reducing the risk of inflammatory diseases, and not to mention, can help improve energy levels, encourage healthy weight loss, improve sleep, and more! 
Curcumin is one of the hundreds of compounds found within the turmeric root, and is often regarded as the most impactful on human health. That’s because curcumin acts as an antioxidant, and is thought to play an important role in managing inflammation. Research has found that curcumin may have an important role in mediating certain molecules that show up during the body’s inflammatory response. 
However, curcumin has incredibly low bioavailability in its natural form. To get the most out of curcumin, it’s important to find a well-absorbed supplement. With PuraTHRIVE’s Micelle Liposomal Curcumin Gold, you can ensure the beneficial active compounds that curcumin offers are more readily available for absorption.
Avoid Excessive Drinking
Have you ever woken up achy and fatigued after a night of drinking? You can blame that nasty hangover feeling partly on inflammation. Alcohol intake has been shown to increase the number of inflammatory markers in the body, and can even impair our ability to regulate inflammation if we aren’t careful.  In a study that indexed the effect of certain food groups on inflammatory response, it was found that excessive alcohol intake was associated with increased inflammatory markers. However, it was shown that moderate intake of alcohol (no more than two drinks per day for men, and one for women) was actually associated with reduced inflammation. 
In moderate amounts, could alcohol be considered beneficial? The jury’s still out on alcohol’s useful effects, but the evidence certainly supports the inflammatory impact of excessive intake. Drink responsibly!
While vitamin D is typically known for its role in healthy bones, its effect is much more widespread in the body. In particular, vitamin D is thought to play an important role in the regulation of the immune system, which includes the inflammatory response! Some studies have found that vitamin D is an essential component in the regulation of the immune response in both inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. [11-12]
However, the bad news is that many of us are deficient in vitamin D, which may seriously compromise our ability to mount an immune or inflammatory response to illness and infection. While there is still a lot to learn about the role of vitamin D in the inflammatory response, preliminary studies have found that adequate amounts of vitamin D can improve markers of inflammation in the human body. [13-14]
Vitamin D can be challenging to get from the diet alone, so it’s important to find a reliable supplement. Try PuraTHRIVE’s Micelle Liposomal Vitamin D3 with K2 – our micelle liposomal delivery is designed to optimize absorption.
But, You Still Have to Live Your Life!
So, while the short answer is yes, diet and lifestyle do contribute to inflammatory status, the more important question is how strictly should we modulate our behaviors to account for this inflammation?
This answer is much more complicated, because there is no concrete answer. Ultimately, whether you are living in a chronic state of disease, considering your genetic health history, or trying to make healthy lifestyle changes, it is evident that food plays a role in preventative health. However, that’s not to say that you should never again eat an inflammatory food ever again!
While nightshades, like tomatoes, get a bad rep, remember that tomatoes are also rich in lovely anti-inflammatory lycopenes! And while sugary foods, like cake or ice cream, are considered pro-inflammatory, they are delicious to enjoy every once in a while. Remember, no foods are entirely black or white, and moderation is the name of the game!
- GBD 2017 Causes of Death Collaborators. Global, regional, and national age-sex-specific mortality for 282 causes of death in 195 countries and territories, 1980-2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017. Lancet 392, 1736–1788 (2018).
- Liu YZ, Wang YX, Jiang CL. Inflammation: The Common Pathway of Stress-Related Diseases. Front Hum Neurosci. 2017;11:316. Published 2017 Jun 20. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2017.00316
- Barbera Betancourt, A., Lyu, Q., Broere, F., Sijts, A., Rutten, V., & van Eden, W. (2017). T Cell-Mediated Chronic Inflammatory Diseases Are Candidates for Therapeutic Tolerance Induction with Heat Shock Proteins. Frontiers in immunology, 8, 1408. https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2017.01408
- Calder PC, Ahluwalia N, Brouns F, Buetler T, Clement K, Cunningham K, Esposito K, Jönsson LS, Kolb H, Lansink M, et al. Dietary factors and low-grade inflammation in relation to overweight and obesity. Br J Nutr 2011;106(S3):S5–78.
- Byrd, D. A., Judd, S. E., Flanders, W. D., Hartman, T. J., Fedirko, V., & Bostick, R. M. (2019). Development and Validation of Novel Dietary and Lifestyle Inflammation Scores. The Journal of Nutrition, 149(12), 2206-2218. doi:10.1093/jn/nxz165
- Chronic Inflammation Permanently Alters Immune Cells in Celiac Patients. (2019, February 20). Retrieved September 22, 2020, from https://celiac.org/about-the-foundation/featured-news/2019/02/chronic-inflammation-permanently-alters-immune-cells-in-celiac-patients/
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- “Benefits of Physical Activity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 Apr. 2021.
- Pahwa R, Goyal A, Bansal P, et al. Chronic Inflammation. [Updated 2021 Aug 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-.
- Oliveira A, Rodríguez-Artalejo F, Lopes C. Alcohol intake and systemic markers of inflammation–shape of the association according to sex and body mass index. Alcohol Alcohol. 2010 Mar-Apr;45(2):119-25. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agp092. Epub 2010 Jan 18. PMID: 20083478.
- Tiosano D, Wildbaum G, Gepstein V, et al. The role of vitamin D receptor in innate and adaptive immunity: a study in hereditary vitamin D-resistant rickets patients. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013;98:1685–1693.
- Olliver M, Spelmink L, Hiew J, Meyer-Hoffert U, Henriques-Normark B, Bergman P. Immunomodulatory effects of vitamin D on innate and adaptive immune responses to Streptococcus pneumoniae. J Infect Dis. 2013;208:1474–1481.
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- Hopkins MH, Owen J, Ahearn T, et al. Effects of supplemental vitamin D and calcium on biomarkers of inflammation in colorectal adenoma patients: a randomized, controlled clinical trial. Cancer Prev Res (Phila) 2011;4:1645–1654.